TACLOBAN CITY- The Philippine Army has vowed to work double-time to neutralize the remaining 15 armed fighters of the New People’s Army (NPA) still running and hiding in the mountains of Leyte Island.
Brig. Gen. Lope Dagoy, commander of the Philippine Army’s 802nd Infantry Brigade said on Wednesday their goal is to completely wipe out insurgency in Leyte before he retires in March next year.
“There are only 15 of them and it is more challenging to chase them. Now that I am in charge of two battalions, they have nowhere to go in Leyte Island,” Dagoy, a former commander of the Presidential Security Group, told reporters in an interview.
The remaining fighters have been hiding in the upland areas of the 5th district of Leyte following intensified combat operations in central Leyte and northwestern side of the island, the Army general said.
Leaders of the terrorist communist group abandoned their lairs in the third congressional district of Leyte after 1,200 of their members and mass supporters surrendered to the military April this year.
“These active 15 fighters are mostly leaders since they don’t have recruits. Communities and local governments in Leyte have been rejecting them. In fact, all mayors in Leyte, Biliran, and Southern Leyte province have expressed support to our anti-insurgency drive,” Dagoy said.
Inopacan, Leyte Mayor Azucena Mirambel, in a press conference on Monday, said they have been stepping up the implementation of livelihood programs and delivery of basic services to far-flung communities to reduce their vulnerability to NPA recruitment.
“The practical way to fight rebellion is to provide the basic needs of people, build roads, and schools,” the neophyte mayor said.
Baybay City Mayor Jose Carlos Cari, the former 5th district representative, in the same press conference, said he has been strongly lobbying for the construction of a new road connecting the remote communities of Mahaplag, Inopacan, Hindang, and Hilongos towns since these areas have been considered as vulnerable to insurgency.
“The project has already started. We need to build roads for easier delivery of services. We have to conduct regular consultations with people in the community to address their concerns,” Cari said.
It was in San Antonio village in Hilongos town where a village chief was brutally killed by NPA members two weeks ago. Building a road network in the area will drive away the remaining rebels, according to the military.
The NPA, which has been waging a five-decade armed struggle against the government, is listed as a terrorist organization by the United States, the European Union, the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the Philippines. (SARWELL Q.MENIANO/PNA)